Should v Could

When we’re trying to adopt healthier lifestyle habits, we tend to really get going with the ‘shoulds’.  I should do some yoga every day, I should eat a bowl of soup instead of a donut, I should relax more ….. ring any bells?

The trouble with ‘should’ is that it gives us something to push back against.  Our little (or large!) inner rebel gets activated.  ‘Oh, I should, should I?  We’ll see about that.’

‘Could’, on the other hand, opens up possibilities.  ‘I could do some yoga today’ leads the mind into figuring out when and for how long, whilst little rebel slumbers on.

‘Could’ also lets us modify the spartan demands we’ve made on ourselves.  We may have decided yesterday that today we’ll do an hour of yoga.  However, we didn’t sleep well, our energy level is not great and on top of that, the morning has somehow run away with us.  So instead of ditching the plan altogether, we can ask ourselves how much or little we ‘could’ do and go with that.

I’ve done that often with my meditation practice.  I used to just skip it altogether if I didn’t think I had time in the morning to do my regular amount of practice.  Then one missed day would lead to several and I’d have a struggle to get back into it.  Once I realised that the most important thing was to keep the habit going, I was able to ask myself how long I ‘could’ sit for, and that’s what I would do – even if it was just a couple of minutes.

My last plea on behalf of ‘could’ is that it gives us a choice, and ‘choosing’ to do something rather than ‘having’ to do it is much more empowering.  If I choose the donut over the soup, I accept the consequences of that choice.  If I choose soup over the donut, I’m doing so because I want the pay-off of eating more healthily.

So let’s stop ‘shoulding’ on ourselves and take charge of our choices!

Five Healthy at Work Tips

Work environments are incredibly varied so apologies, I’m going to have to generalise here.   My job involves quite a lot of sitting, most of it at a computer, but if yours involves rushing around a hospital ward, or gardening (lucky you!) or driving a truck, I hope you will be able to find ways to adapt these tips to suit.

Tip #1  Get moving

If you have a sedentary job like me you have to find every opportunity you can to get up off your behind.  According to Dan Buettner, author of ‘The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest’, the people living in the communities he studied didn’t ‘exercise’ as such but their ways of life just involved a lot more movement.  Every 20 minutes or so, in fact!  I try to get out for a 10 minute walk mid morning and mid afternoon, and otherwise just get out of my chair as often as I can.  Click here for a great schedule with links to specific exercises for desk jockeys.

Tip #2  Drink plenty

Keeping hydrated has just so many benefits.  At work it helps us to keep our concentration and focus, avoid headaches, and keep our energy levels up.  Of course I’m talking water here, before you start thinking I’m advocating taking a hip flask with you!  What works for me is having a water bottle on my desk but pouring myself a glassful rather than swigging it out of the bottle – I don’t know why but I find that I drink more that way.  I also have some herbal teas in my desk drawer and usually only have one cup of coffee during my work day.  In the summer, delicious fruits such as berries and watermelon also keep hydration up.

Tip #3  Bring your own lunch

Years ago I worked for a large French company and I would have been a complete fool not to have taken advantage of the high-quality, hugely subsidised restaurant!  Since then, the choice has been grab a sandwich and packet of crisps on the way to work (no good now that I’m gluten-free and the temptation to add a chocolate bar is a struggle that I usually lose!), or bring my own.  Given that I’m going for ‘healthy’, it has to be the latter and this might be a flask of soup, salad with quinoa and roasted veg, or hummus, crackers and veggie dippers.  Of course this takes a bit or organisation.  If you’re rushing to get out of the house in the morning, trying to decide what to have for lunch and put it together is just not going to seem like the best option!  My routine is to cook at the weekend, use the fridge and freezer to full advantage, and assemble as far as possible the night before.  Having a gorgeous lunch-box helps ……

If you want to indulge in some total lunch envy have a  look at Bentoparty on Instagram.

Tip 4  Take a proper break

The fact is we are much more able to be focused and productive if we take proper breaks, especially at lunch-time.  Now don’t get me wrong I will eat as I work in an emergency but let’s be honest about emergencies!  It’s very easy to let that become a habit and it’s really not good for us.  It worries me when friends who are nurses tell me that they are often not able to take a long enough break to go and eat.  Come on NHS – can you (we) really afford staff who are in poor health?  For myself, if I have someone to eat with I will go to the staff room and have a relaxed, chatty break.  But where I fall down is when I have no-one to go with and I stay at my desk checking Facebook while I eat.  Note to self!

Tip 5  Hand-washing

So we all know to wash our hands when we’ve used the bathroom (don’t we?  I wonder sometimes!) but what is not quite so well-known is that frequent hand-washing is one of the best ways to keep cold and flu germs at bay.  Especially at this time of year, wash hands regularly with soap and water and try to keep your hands away from your nose and mouth as much as possible.  Just have a look at this video clip to see how quickly germs spread!


The best diet

Photo by Jannis Brandt on Unsplash










What’s probably the most controversial question in the world of health?  I know, good one to launch the blog with!

A few years ago Channel 4 released a documentary called ‘The World’s Best Diet’ .  Obviously, I was right there with baited breath waiting to find out.  (It was very well done and worth a look if you haven’t seen it –

They looked at lots of different criteria to determine where each country came in the league table, such as life expectancy, obesity levels, levels of diabetes and heart disease, etc. What was fascinating, was that the top 5 were completely different diets.

The chart topper (to everyone’s surprise, I think!) was Iceland, with a diet high in fish, high-quality, grass-fed meat and dairy, and very few vegetables.  Second and third were Italy and Greece – your standard Mediterranean diet.  Fourth were the Seventh Day Adventist in the USA, who are vegetarian, and Japan was fifth with a diet high in fish and vegetables and no dairy.

So what are we to make of that?  The film-makers drew the conclusion that the common denominator that made these diets the healthiest was high-quality and minimally processed foods – local, seasonal and traditionally prepared.  That almost always also means low in refined sugars, and high in fibre and good fats.

Good to know that it doesn’t have to be complicated really!